How to Find Out If Someone Left You Money in a Will

By Laura Payet

How to Find Out If Someone Left You Money in a Will

By Laura Payet

Once the initial shock of losing a loved one or friend subsides, you may begin to wonder whether you were remembered in their will. The best and most efficient way to find out is to ask that person's executor or attorney. If you don't know who that is or if you are uncomfortable approaching them, you can search the probate court records in the county where the deceased person lived.

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1. Ask the executor.

The executor is the person named in the will who administers the estate during the probate process, including having assets appraised, paying creditors, and distributing assets to the deceased's beneficiaries. If you know who the executor is, you can simply approach her personally and ask.

In fact, even if you know who the executor is, your best course of action may be to wait a few weeks. One of the executor's duties is to notify every beneficiary named in the will once the will enters probate. If you are a beneficiary, you'll receive notice.

2. Search probate court records.

The executor begins the probate process by filing a petition in probate court in the deceased person's county of residence. Generally, when a probate case is opened, the will is one of the first documents filed and becomes a public record available for anyone to inspect. If you don't want to wait to be notified, you can examine the court records in the case to find the name and contact information for the executor or her attorney or review the will yourself.

The Court Clerk's Office

One way to search probate court records is to go in person to the appropriate clerk's office. In most states, the court that handles probate cases is called the probate court, but in some states, it may be called surrogate's court or district court.

You will most likely need to go to the appropriate court in the county where the deceased person lived. Provide the full name and date of death of the deceased and ask the clerk whether a case has been opened in their name. If it has, you can view the case file. You may also be able to obtain a copy of the will from the clerk for a fee.

Searching Online

Nowadays, in many counties, you can view probate court records online for free. By searching the deceased person's name and date of death, you can determine whether a case has been opened. While some courts charge a fee for you to see and download the actual case documents, many often provide free access to an index of the documents and to obtain contact information for the executor or her attorney. Some courts offer the option to mail in a form and pay a fee to obtain copies of any documents you want.

Keep in mind that even if you are a beneficiary, it may take several months for you to receive your inheritance. Before the executor can distribute any assets from the estate, she must pay any outstanding debts and taxes. This process requires notifying the creditors and waiting a specified time period for them to submit their claims against the estate as well as preparing final income and estate or inheritance tax returns.

Leaving a will expressing your wishes is a sensible and effective way to provide for your loved ones after you're gone. You can prepare a simple will inexpensively with the help of an online service provider.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.